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Sadly, many people view homelessness as the result of personal failings, and consider that if the economy is going well, there is no excuse for not getting on.
But this belief is belied by the facts, which show that homelessness is caused by a complex interplay between a person's individual circumstances and adverse 'structural' factors outside their direct control.
These problems can build up over years until the final crisis moment when a person becomes homeless.
A number of different personal and social factors can contribute towards people becoming homeless. These may include one or more of the following:
Tackling these problems is a complex business and normally requires support from public bodies, friends and family, combined with a lot of hard work from the individual or family in trouble. Public support might include intervention, advice, counselling, training or provision of alternative accommodation by a local authority where appropriate.
However, in all instances Shelter believes these problems can be best resolved when the person or family in question has a decent and secure home.
Structural causes of homelessness are social and economic in nature, and are often outside the control of the individual or family concerned.
These may include:
These problems require long-term policy solutions such as changes in the housing benefit system, the building of more affordable homes, and ensuring that a wider cross-section of society benefits from the fruits of economic growth.
The three main reasons for having lost a last settled home, given by applicants for homelessness support from local councils are:
However, these reasons are only the catalysts that trigger people into seeking assistance, and not the underlying issues that have caused the crisis to build up in the first place.
For many people, there's no single event that results in sudden homelessness. Instead, homelessness is due to a number of unresolved problems building up over time.
 Statutory homelessness statistics, CLG, 2008